A City in Change

Welcome to Oulu, the city of long, cold winters, tar and technology. Located in the narrowest part of Finland at the mouth of Oulu river, it calls itself the capital of Northern Scandinavia. Not exactly located in Scandinavia, it is the indisputable capital of Northern Finland.

Northern Finland is losing a lot of its population. Entire villages are emptying, as the youth is relocating to cities. Not all of them go directly to Southern Finland, though. Oulu is growing very rapidly, has been doing that since around the early 1990’s.

This means that there’s a lot of building going on. New suburbs are taking over fields and forests. Industrial areas are rebuilt for housing. And the city center, which mainly was very low, is suddenly full of tower blocks. As all this is going on, there are lots of buildings, which are empty. The challenge is to get there before the demolition crews move in.

The massive changes in the city center started in the summer of 2013. This building, called the Pajarinkulma, was torn down to be replaced by a massive shopping center and apartment complex.

While being a cute building from the 50’s, it was known for years that it would be demolished. And because of that it was in an awful shape in the end. I visited one of the apartments a few years before I took this picture. Everything, absolutely everything including kitchens and wallpapers was from the 60’s or the 70’s.

Downstairs was a bar which was decorated with old bus seats and bus bodies and the cheapest beer in town. A pint cost 2,80 euros for a student (normal price back then was around 5 euros). I said goodbye to the bar two days before it closed down for good. I wanted some memorabilia, so while leaving, I decided to steal a painting from the wall. When I grabbed it, there was a huge noise, and all paint and plaster on the wall crumbled to the floor.

Perhaps it was time for this beauty to go.

Next to Pajarinkulma was another yellow brick building. It was designed by the city’s first municipal architect Martti Heikura, who has had a tremendous impact on how the city looks nowadays. His early post war architecture is simple, yet beautiful, but is grossly undervalued and pretty carelessly torn down.

This was not just a house designed by Heikura, he also designed his own apartment here, in which he lived his last years before dying a premature death at the age of 53.

When the house was torn down, I spotted something really interesting in the attic.

This photo is taken with maximum zoom on an iPhone 5, so the quality is really not that good. In the centre of the picture is a built-in bookshelf, which still was full of large and very old books. I really would have loved to explore them further, but I was already late.

The third building torn down that summer was this yellow one originally built for newspaper Liitto. It was a strange building, because its facade was uglier than the backside. The other side was covered in white and green plastic plates, and it was generally considered one of the ugliest buildings in town. Like was the case with Pajarinkulma, it was also common knowledge that this building would be demolished. It was left to a verry sorry state before demolition.

The building also included a low wing with three business premises. The one with the orange wall housed Peppers, the most notorious bar in the city center. Closest to the camera was Hevimesta, a bar, which sold beer, cider and long drink for one euro on Sundays and Wednesdays. Upstairs was Snooker Time, the living room of the culture hippies in town. All three of these have luckily found new premises in town.

So, yes. Oulu is the city of cheep beer. And lots to explore in the coming years.

Published by desertedfinland

A Finnish Urban explorer & Photographer

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